Our Present Position
Two of the measures of compromise which passed the Senate, have been acted on in the House, but their fate in that body has not been such as the friends of peace and harmony could desire. The Texas Boundary bill has been defeated, and the bill admitting California and providing a territorial government for Utah has passed. So far then there is no compromise, except inasmuch as the abandonment of the Wilmot Proviso in the case of Utah may be considered to partake of that character. The measure which has been contributed by the South since the beginning of the session, which was by many persons considered as eve more odious than the proviso itself, has been consummated without any conditions or any accompaniments calculated to make it more acceptable. The project for settling the Texas boundary, a question which appears more likely than any other to disturb the harmony of the Union, has been summarily rejected.
It would be an interesting subject of investigation to determine in what manner this result has been brought about, and to ascertain the causes for the threatening aspect which affairs now undoubtedly wear. Should a person enter into such an examination he would soon become perplexed by the intricacy of the subject, no less than by the varying and shifting phases presented by the opinions of opposite parties, and the impossibility of deciding on the motives of the various actors who would necessarily claim his attention. He would find that persons and parties proclaiming certain opinions, opposing certain measures, and advocating others, had netted almost invariably so as to secure defeat themselves and victory to their opponents, even when an opposite result might easily have been achieved. It is a singular fact that the Southern members of Congress now find themselves in a predicament, into which they have been led by those of their own colleagues who professed to be the most zealous defenders of Southern rights, and the most vigilant guardians of Southern interests.
At the commencement of the session of Congress, when the clouds that lowered on our political horizon were pierced by scarcely a single ray of light, a way to the wished for goal of peace and harmony was pointed our by a committee of the Senate, composed of some of the wisest and most patriotic members of that body. The measure, or rather measures, which they proposed were called a compromise. If they were a fair, honorable and open compromise between conflicting and irreconcilable opinions, they should have been accepted without hesitation. That such was really their character we have never doubted, and for that reason we have always advocated them, both justly and singly, as we believed it was only in this manner that any settlement could be obtained. There were some persons, however, who saw these measures differently, or rather they refused to accept any compromise, relying, the event has shown how wisely, on the justice of their cause to secure to them everything they demanded. Their great error consisted, not in believing themselves right, but in refusing to acknowledge that any one could conscientiously entertain opposite opinions, however fallacious or inconsistent with constitutional obligations. In this we allude only to the Southern impracticables. In the Northern ultras it was good generalship to oppose a compromise, since their section having a majority, every defeat of the moderates brought them nearer to victory. With the Southern men, on the contrary, the only alternative was compromise, or nothing. Many of them were willing, in conjunction with, we believe, a large majority of the people of the South, to take the former. There were, however, some who proclaimed that they would have everything or nothing, and they joined their forces with the Northern ultras to defeat the moderates, and thus obtained; not a single advantage, but simply nothing at all, except the defeat of every proposition they had made.
Had the compromise, as framed by the committee, passed the Senate and the House, the South, in return for the admission of California, to which it had proclaimed underlying hostility, would have gained the settlement of the Texas boundary, territorial governments for Utah and New Mexico without the Wilmot Proviso, and stringent laws for the recovery of fugitive slaves. But the peculiar guardians of Southern interests chose to reject this favorable settlement, though in spite of their opposition every measure contemplated by the committee passed the Senate. But individually they encountered the same kind of hostility in the lower which jointly they had met with in the upper House. The consequence is that California is admitted unconditionally, the Texas question remains in a more dangerous position than at the beginning of the session, New Mexico is left for the Wilmot Proviso, and it is extremely doubtful whether the Fugitive Slave bill can now be forced through.
Such is the sad condition to which the ultraism has reduced us. Will the people of the South thank the authors of their troubles? Will the countenance those who rejected a fair and honorable compromise? We think not. We believe they will yet make their voices heard in Congress, and compel a settlement which will save the Union, and at the same time preserve the honor of the South untarnished. It is true that the sky now looks lowering, that the political atmosphere is th ick and dark, and gloomy forebodings fill the minds of even the most hopeful; but the darkest hour is just before day, and it may be that the storm is about to pass over, that light will soon again break upon us, and that men's minds will become filled with better resolutions, and their hearst with kindlier feelings than those which have hitherto influenced them.